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And here, gentlemen, I own I cannot but regret, that one of our countrymen should be criminally pursued for asserting to the necessity of a reform, at the very moment when that necessity seems admitted by the parliament itself; that this unhappy reform shall at the same moment be a subject of legislative discussion, and criminal prosecution. Far am I from imputing any sinister design to the virtue or wisdom of our government, but who can avoid feeling the deplorable impression that must be made on the public mind, when the demand for that reform is answered by a criminal information ?
I am the more forcibly impressed by this consideration, when I reflect that when this information was first put upon the file, the subject was transiently mentioned in the House of Commons. Some circumstances retarded the progress of the inquiry there, and the progress of the information was equally retarded here. The first day of this session you all know, that subject was again brought forward in the House of Commons, and as if they had slept together, this prosecution was also revived in the Court of Kings's Bench; and that before a jury, taken from a pannel partly composed of those very members of parliament, who, in the House of Commons, must debate upon this subject as a measure of public advantage, which they are here called upon to consider as a public crime.
This paper, gentlemen, insists upon the necessity of emancipating the Catholics of Ireland, and that is charged as a part of the libel. If they had kept this prosecution impending for another year, how much would remain for a jury to decide upon, I should be at a loss to discover. It seems as if the progress of public reformation was eating away the ground of the prosecution. Since the commencement of the prosecution, this part of the libel has unluckily received the sanction of the Legislatore. In that interval, our Catholic brethren have obtained that admission, which it seems it was a libel to propose : in what way to account for this, I am really at a loss. Have any alarms been ocOr,
casioned by the emancipation of our Catholic brethren? Has the bigoted malignity of any individuals been crushed? Or, has the stability of the government, or has that of the country been awakened ? is million of subjects stronger than three millions? Do you think the benefit they received should be poisoned by the stings of vengeance? If you think so, you must say to them, “you have demanded your emancipation, and you have got it; but we abhor your persons, we are outraged at your success; and we will stigmatize, by a criminal prosecution, the relief which you have obtained from the voice of your country.” I ask you, gentlemen, do you think, as honest, men, anxious for the public tranquillity, conscious that there are wounds not yet completely cicatrized, that you ought to speak this language at this time, to men who are too much disposed to think that in this very emancipation they have been saved from their own Parliament by the humanity of their Sovereign? Or, do you wish to prepare them for the revocation of these improvident concessions? Do you think it wise or humane, at this moment, to insult them, by sticking up in a pillory the man who dared to stand forth their advocate? I put it to your oaths, do you think that a blessing of that kind, that a victory obtained by justice over bigotry and oppression, should have a stigma cast upon it by an ignominious sentence upon men bold and honest enough to propose that measure; to propose the redeeming of religion from the abuses of the church—the reclaiming of three millions of men from bondage, and giving liberty to all who had a right to demand it-giving, I say, in ihe so much censured words of this paper, “ UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION !" I speak in the spirit of the British Law, which makes liberty commensurate with, and inseparable from, the British soil—which proclaims, even to the stranger and the sojourner, the moment he sets his foot upon British earth, that the ground on which he treads is holy, and consecrated by the genius of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION. No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced; no matter
what complexion incompatible with freedom, an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon him ; no matter in what disastrous battle his liberty may have been cloven down; no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery ; the first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty ; l.is body swells beyond the measure of his chains that burst from around him, and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible Genius of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION !
[Here Mr. Curran was interrupted by a sudden burst of applause from the court and hall. After some time, silence was restored by the authority of Lord Clonmell, who acknowledged the plea. sure which he himself felt at the brilliant display of professional talents, but disapproved of any intemperate expressions of applause in a Court of Justice.]
Mr. Curran then proceeded. Gentlemen, I am not such a fool as to ascribe any effusion of this sort to any merit of mine.
It is the mighty theme, and not the inconsiderable advocate, that can excite interest in the hearer. What you hear is but the testimony which nature bears to her own character; it is the effusion of her gratitude to that Power which stamps that character upon her.
Gentlemen, I am glad that this question has not been brought forward earlier; I rejoice for the sake of the court, of the jury, and of the public repose, that this question has not been brought forward till now. In Great Britain, analogous circumstances have taken place, At the commencement of that unfortunate war which has deluged Europe with blood, the spirit of the English people was tremblingly alive to the terror of French principles ; at that moment of general paroxysm, to accuse was to convict. The danger loomed larger to the public eye, from the misty medium through which it
was surveyed. We
inaccessible heights by the shadows which they project, where the lowness, and the distance of the light form the length of the shade.
There is a sort of aspiring and adventurous credulity, which disdains assenting to obvious truths, and delights in catching at the improbability of circumstances, as its best ground of faith. To what other cause, gentlemen, can you ascribe that in the wise, the reflecting, and the philosophic nation of Great Britain, a printer has been gravely found guilty of a libel, for publishing those resolutions to which the present minister of that kingdom had actually subscribed his name ? To what other cause can you ascribe, what in my mind, is still more astonishing, in such a country as Scotland, a nation cast in the happy medium between the spiritless acquiescence of submissive poverty, and the sturdy credulity of pampered wealth ; cool and ardent, adventurous and persevering; winging her eagle flight against the blaze of every science, with an eye that never winks, and a wing that never tires; crowned as she is with the spoils of every art, and decked with the wreath of every muse; from the deep and scrutinizing researches of her Humes, to the sweet and simple, but not less sublime and pathetic morality of her Burns--how from the bosom of a country like that, genius, and character, and talents, should be banished to a distant barbarous soil ;* condemned to pine under the horrid communion of vulgar vice and base born profligacy, for twice the period that ordinary calculation gives to the continuance of human life?
I cannot, however, avoid adverting to a circumstance that distinguishes the case of Mr. Rowan from that of Mr. Muir.
Mr. Curran alludes to the sentence of transportation passed in Scotland upon Mr. Muir, &c. &c.
The severer law of Scotland, it seems, and happy fox them that it should, enables them to remove from thei: sight the victim of their infatuation. The more mer. ciful spirit of our law deprives you of that consolation : his sufferings must remain forever before our eyes, a continual call upon your shame and your remorse. But those sufferings will do more; they will not rest satisfied with your unavailing contrition, thay will challenge the great and paramount inquest of society: the man will be weighed against the charge, the witness and the sentence; and impartial justice will demand, why has an Irish jury done this deed ? The moment he ceases to be regarded as a criminal, he becomes of necessity an accuser; and let me ask you, what can your most zealous defenders be prepared to answer to such a charge? When your sentence shall have sent him forth to that stage, which guilt alone can render infamous ; let me tell
he will not be like a little statue iipon a mighty pedestal, diminishing by elevation; but he will stand a striking and imposing object upon a monument, which, if it do not, and it cannot, record the atrocity of his crime, must record the atrocity of his conviction. Upon this subject, therefore, credit me when I say, that I am still more anxious for you, than I can possibly be for him. I cannot but feel the peculiarity of your situation. Not the jury of his own choice, which the law of England allows, but which ours refuses : collected in that box by a person, certainly no friend to Mr. Rowan, certainly not very deeply interested in giving him a very impartial jury. Feeling this, as I am persuaded you do, you cannot be surprised, however you may be distressed at the mournful presage, with which an anxious public is led to fear the worst from your possible determination. But I will not, for the justice and honor of our common country, suffer my mind to be borne away by such melancholy anticipation. I will not relinquish the confidence that this day will be the period of his sufferings; and however mercilessly he has been hitherto pursued, that your verdict will send him home to the arms of his family,